School of Physics & Astronomy

Our Alumni


Isabel Palmer
MSci Physics with Medical Physics, 2015
Senior Radiotherapy Physicist, Guy’s at St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

I first became interested in Medical Physics when I was investigating the different courses available when I was applying for university. I had briefly considered a career in medicine, but thought physics was where my talents and passions really lay, so Medical Physics seemed the perfect compromise for me.

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Once I had decided that, the University of Nottingham seemed an obvious choice - with its close links to Sir Peter Mansfield and the inception of MRI, I was excited to join a department clearly leading in this field. I was also a keen rower as a teenager, and so the active Boat Club and proximity to the National Watersports Centre was also a big draw for me. These factors, alongside the huge and beautiful campus (which really was at its best on the glorious sunny day that I visited), were what convinced me Nottingham was the place for me.When I was studying at Nottingham I loved the huge range of societies that were available - over the years I was a member of the boat club, recreational running, acapella, and cocktail societies to name just a few, as well as of course PhysSoc. I am still great friends with many of the people I met as part of these groups, and the support and companionship is really what made my university experience so positive.When I graduated from Nottingham, I joined the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), and qualified as a Clinical Scientist in Medical Physics, specialising in Radiotherapy Physics, in 2018. Since then, I have progressed in my career and I am currently working as a Senior Radiotherapy Physicist at Guy's Cancer Centre (part of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation trust). I hope to continue working in Radiotherapy Physics and am soon to take up a new as lead for imaging in radiotherapy.As Clinical Scientists in radiotherapy, we are responsible for the precision and accuracy of all stages of a patient's radiotherapy treatment including designing and calculating each individual patient's optimal treatment plan, commissioning and calibrating equipment including the linear accelerators used for treatment, and developing and implementing new techniques to ensure that our patients receive the most up to date care possible. This means that I use my physics knowledge in my job pretty much every day to understand and assess the effects of radiation on our patients.We work in a multidisciplinary team working closely with engineers, radiographers, doctors and other healthcare professionals to provide a safe radiotherapy service and to develop new technologies for service improvement, and out responsibilities include a mixture of clinical work, research and teaching.My career highlight has been commissioning our new cancer centres which include eight linacs, three CT scanners, an MRI scanner and a PET scanner. This gained us the accolade of "the highest radiotherapy centre in Europe" as our linacs are located on the second floor, something that is usually avoided due to the weight of the necessary lead shielding - in fact, our 13 storey building is said to weigh more than our neighbour, the 72 storey Shard!Medical Physics is a great way to use the knowledge from your physics degree in your everyday work. It is highly rewarding, and you can see the immediate results of your work on patients' lives which brings great job satisfaction.Entry to the STP is highly competitive, so it is useful to research the application process in advance, and make sure you have plenty to talk about at your interview. Interviewers will always be interested in times you have led and managed projects and teams, dealt with difficult situations, and shown your enthusiasm for science in medicine, so make sure you are taking steps to gain this experience. Anything from work experience and volunteering, to leading societies can provide useful evidence for your application.





Katy Ashby
Physics with European Language MSci, 2017
Principal Software Engineer and Team Lead, Orderly

UoN was initially high on my list as it was one of only a few universities in the UK which offered an IOC accredited Physics course combined with a year abroad opportunity, plus was a prestigious "Red Brick" uni. 
When I visited on my open day, I fell in love with the beautiful campus. I also loved that the guides who showed me around the School of Physics were into sport - it felt like the Physics students at UoN valued having a balanced lifestyle.

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While I was at Nottingham I enjoyed the Physics course, which was well-taught and well-paced with lots of support from lecturers when needed. I also enjoyed being part of Physsoc, which made everyone really close within the school and we had a lot of fun.
During my 4th year I also had the opportunity to be on the Student council as a course representative which was a great experience and allowed me to give back to the school. 
As part of my course I spent a year at EPFL in Switzerland which was an experience like no other; although very challenging, it was unforgettable, and all thanks to UoN’s strong ties with European universities. My job title is currently Principal Software Engineer and Team Lead, recently promoted after being a Senior Software Engineer previously. Within this role I am heavily technical, while leading an engineering team of around 5 people, to create new products and enhancements for Orderly. Orderly is based in Derby, and it is an SME providing enterprise food supply chain solutions for clients such as Starbucks and Morrisons. This is a great company which has a strong focus on building software products to help reduce food wastage and make a positive impact on the environment. 

Aspects of the job include big data processing and data analysis, which link back strongly to parts of my Physics degree at UoN. Although moving from Physics to Software does not have a lot of directly transferrable skills, I would not be in the position I am today without a strong STEM background, and broader skills such as problem solving are paramount to my day-to-day job as a Software Engineer. And some skills are of course directly transferrable – such as being able to work with algorithms and complex mathematics, plus the training I completed as part of scientific computing courses. These were enough to get me my first graduate role as a Graduate Developer and start my career.
I have enjoyed my career so far, having gone from strength to strength. I moved to Orderly in June this year and I have just been promoted which is a great sign and a definite highlight! I am looking forward to leading my team to continue to create great software products while also learning new skills as a line manager.I have really valued being involved with the School of Physics as an alumni, having given several career talks to students looking for inspiration, and most recently being involved with the Inspirational Women In STEM project as a mentor.

Software development is a hugely rewarding field with a vast number of opportunities. No two jobs are the same, and you will get the opportunity to build and create new things while continuously learning. Physics is a perfect foundation to becoming a great software engineer.






Joanna Sillars
BSc Physics With Medical Physics, 2016
Clinical Scientist, Radiation Physics, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust

Nottingham was one of the only University's at the time that offered Medical Physics as an undergraduate option, so that immediately sparked my interest. I visited the campus and fell in love with how everything is in one place, in a park! I felt Nottingham was a brilliant student experience, whether it was nights out at Rock City or Ocean, or eating burgers in the SU, or going for walks around the lake. 


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My current job is as a Clinical Scientist in a NHS Trust. I work across the Radiation Physics and Nuclear Medicine Physics departments, offering expert advice on radiation safety, carrying out quality assurance tests on radiation equipment, administering radioactive therapies to patients, and much more! I use Physics everyday, as it underpins the basics of my job. I carried out work experience at Nottingham hospitals in their medical physics departments, which really gave me an idea of what I wanted to do as a career, and helped me get onto the Scientist Training Programme, which is how I became a qualified Clinical Scientist. I love teaching others about radiation safety and the physics of radiation, so some of my career highlights have been the training courses I have organised and trained, where I teach other healthcare professionals of their obligations under the legislation, and how to work safely with radiation.In the future, I would love to be a qualified Medical Physics Expert, so I would be able to advise Trusts on how to optimise and improve their patient's experience with radiation.

Make sure you really want to do it! Try to get as much work experience and research into the career as you can. The Scientist Training Programme is not "just another graduate scheme", it is an intensive three year training into a career in the NHS as a Clinical Scientist - so please make sure you definitely want to be one before you start!





Laura Clarke-220

Laura Clarke
Msci Physics, 2013
Managing Director, Chilwell Products Ltd

For me university was a pivotal stage in my life that allowed me to meet and become friends with such a large diversity of people from so many different backgrounds. I'm a firm believer in the greater variety of people you can expose yourself to, from different walks of life, the better you develop as your own self. I believe it's truly allowed me to build my social skills and people skills, which allows you to make connections that really can be life changing. 

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Nottingham University has a fantastic balance of academic and social experiences, both of which I thoroughly indulged in! I'm really into sport, and the uni offered a lot in terms of clubs and teams to get involved in. Despite being a local that grew in Nottingham, it was important to me to have my independence and live in halls and then accommodation in the surrounding areas; Lenton in particular being a massive student community. Albeit I could have saved some money and lived at home but I saw this as an investment into my own independence and personal development. 

Looking back at my degree in particular I met some remarkable people and minds, being surrounded by these people really elevated and inspired me. I have always thrived in environments where I'm breaking the mould or doing things that are not the norm. Walking into the lecture theatre B1 in my first week, being perhaps noting 20 females in what was a room of approximately 220 people was interesting but if any it drove my ambition. It's amazing to hear that this percentage has increased - it's what the world needs! Having different genders involved in STEM related jobs post university is going to allow companies to develop their own perspectives further and diversify them, rather than operating from just a male perspective. Companies having a large diversity of people from so many different backgrounds can only be of benefit. 

At times I definitely remember feeling out of my depth worried I had taken on too much as a Physics degree definitely serves up its fair share of challenges. However, the teaching staff, my own tutor and my course friends all provided their support at different points through the class to help me achieve a 2.1 overall, something which I'm still incredibly proud of almost 10 years on. The support amongst my peers within the common rooms and friendship groups really helped me to achieve this.

I now run an engineering firm, which is actually our family business. My mum's father (my grandfather) set up his own business over 50 years ago now, with various family members along the way working within the business including my dad. Working in a male dominated industry is something that has never bothered me, it's an environment I've been used to since university. My role is extremely varied and every day can be different. Due to our size I often find myself having to solve problems that are entirely new to me and the resilience I learnt at university with problem solving has definitely been of benefit. We manufacture metal pressings and the logical approach when it comes to the power presses helps me to grasp an understanding of what our team is working with. I've also worked in other management roles since leaving university and one thing I've found, even though it's almost a decade since I graduated, people are still impressed by the fact I did physics and at a university like Nottingham. It clearly carries a strong reputation even years on. I love the autonomy within my current role and the opportunity to drive the business in whichever direction I feel is most beneficial. It carries a hell of a lot of responsibility and was something that weighed heavily initially, but now something I carry with pride.  Recently we made investments within the company for new machinery so that we were able to move to a 4 day week at the start of this year, reducing our weekly hours from 39 to 34 and it's had great beneficial results for all here at Chilwell Products. 

I just try to do what I can with the situation in front of me, then reflect and build on that again. I look for continuous improvement, again and again. The best skills I have found that aid me are my interpersonal skills, people might not remember what you say, but they certainly remember how you make them feel. 

If I went back to the 18 year old me, knowing what I know now, I'd likely share the following: it doesn't matter if you haven't managed to get an internship, it doesn't matter if you don't know what grad scheme you want to join. Follow that that you are interested in, hard work comes much easier when you follow what you enjoy. The purpose venn diagram speaks to me and is a fantastic visual aid (not entirely sure how you might get this across in text though!)

venn diagram - Laura Clarke






Hugh Baxter
MSci Physics, 2020
Software Engineer (Waveguide Modelling Engineer) – WaveGuide Optics (Snap)

I first considered the University of Nottingham because of its high ranking in university league tables for Physics. I found I loved the campus with all its greenery, the City itself, and how easy the train would be for me to reach friends and family across the country. The School of Physics and Astronomy gave me great first impressions both from talks and demonstrations when I visited on an open day, and from the Sixty Symbols Youtube channel featuring many of my future lecturers.

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One of my favourite things about life at UoN was the many societies and the social opportunities they come with, including the physics society: Physoc. I’m no good at sport, but that didn’t stop me from trying out new ones and meeting many friends along the way. From my course, societies, living in halls and in the student area of the city, I’ve made close friends for life: I found the community very kind and welcoming.As well as university life with the fun, connections and opportunities it brought me, I loved the Physics course itself. I applied to university with great curiosity in many areas of physics, particularly in quantum, relativity and astrophysics, the great selection of modules and their supportive lecturers, allowed me to explore these areas and have my questions answered, this has changed how I think about the world and my beliefs.I’m now in my second job since leaving university: Waveguide Modelling Engineer / Software Engineer at WaveOptics ( The company designs and produces the optical components of augmented reality glasses: waveguides (the lenses which implement diffractive nanostructures allowing images to be displayed over the real world) and light engines (the low-profile, in-frame projectors which inject images into the waveguides).There are many scientific / engineering-related software jobs out there where physics or other STEM backgrounds are highly sought after. Nottingham’s School of Physics and Astronomy will get you started in programming and give you opportunities such as lab-based and theoretical projects and coursework to develop and apply programming skills. Unsurprisingly most of the course content is focused on physics and scientific skills, rather than software development. There is a lot to learn when it comes to computing and good programming skills; you won’t get an in-depth skillset in programming from a physics course alone, or other non-computer science degree, but a computer-science degree is definitely not a prerequisite for a career in software development: if you can study physics, you can probably pick up how to write software relatively easily. If a software career interests you, my advice is to pursue the degree of your choice (preferably one in STEM), and if it isn’t computer science, there are so many good quality resources online, both free and paid, (YouTube especially) that can help you learn programming skills in your free time. Many employers of STEM graduates know that software skills can be taught and developed as part of the job, so, in many contexts, the field-relevant knowledge gained from a degree (optics in my case) may be seen as far more valuable and put you ahead of other candidates.



School of Physics and Astronomy

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